Friday, 14 April 2017


Woo-hoo-hoo! Kihei

Charley Young beach is a gentle arc of exceedingly fine sand, constrained at either end by outcroppings of jagged black lava. Posted signage warns users of dangerous shorebreaks and a fierce undertow. Ann and I moved into a condominium across the street at 2191 South Kihei Road, a labyrinthine array of three-storey buildings with exquisitely maintained grounds.  My sister Anne and her husband Al were booked into the same complex, so we were neighbours but not tripping over each other. The three of them had stayed together in the area three years previous and had flung some of my late brother’s ashes on the water, rock and sand. Every day at the beach, whether wading or watching the sunset I wondered where the tides and trade winds had taken him. He wasn’t wired to ever relax but he’d loved Maui. I liked being in a distant though immediate place where he’d been and had managed to hang loose.

Birds are no different anywhere in the world. They wake up too early and make a lot of noise too soon. On our first morning in Kihei (and every subsequent morning) I awoke at dawn to some feathered creature gleefully yelling, ‘Woo-hoo-hoo.’ Though I heard and followed the call, I was never able to figure out who the party bird was, there were too many suspects. What really intrigued and entranced me about the various species of birds was their colouring.

The parakeets zipped by like day-glo hallucinations. Red cardinals flew traffic cone orange in the sunlight; a different variety had red heads, grey breasts and black backs. Brave or complacent russet doves with powder blue faces and beaks hunkered down in foliage shade. The mynas, as intelligent and as attracted to shiny objects as crows and magpies, had striking yellow rings around their eyes which matched their beaks, different tissue entirely. Every Tuesday morning the white egrets, prancing with reverse bended knees like Jagger in his prime, tailed the landscaper’s John Deere lawn tractor, the grub buffet was open. The birds were herded and menaced by a local marmalade cat my sister nicknamed Big Red; the omnipresent geckos enjoyed a time out from the food chain during the cat’s patrols.

Our one-bedroom condo was beach house, bamboo and wicker, starfish knick-knacks. My only complaint or observation about our digs is that dusty ceiling fans and stippled ceilings are a filthy combination. Our walk-out lanai was steps away from an egg-shaped pool with too many rules; I quit reading them once they addressed open sores and fecal accidents about 12 bullet points in. Outcast Alley, the smoking area, was close by, tucked away behind the tennis courts. Every morning Ann and I greeted a burning man, redder than Lenin and Trotsky, from Kazakhstan whose holiday mission was succinct: ‘Must hide from sun.’ Perhaps Maui was his reward for an election well hacked.

Roofers worked over our heads, above and beyond the slope of the Spanish tile, on the apex of the roofs, installing solar panels. A notice in one of the common areas indicated that they’d run into unforeseen problems, specifically an unnatural amount of sawdust scattered over the tongue and groove ceilings of the complex’s upper units. Ann spotted the pest control company vehicle parked by the main building the next morning. Now we understood why every palm tree in the vicinity sported a band of sheet metal about 10 feet up its trunk: Rattus rattus is a climber, a nester, a leaper and a gnawer.

In any place a long way from home I need to get a sense of things on the ground. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser proclaimed itself ‘The Pulse of Paradise.’ It was the big city paper, outward looking in its coverage of international and American news, though reflecting Hawaii as a pacific blue state. Our local broadsheet was the Maui Times which was frighteningly more immediate. What with rising ocean levels and eroding shorelines, news had it that climate change was real and that the county had been studying potential catastrophe evacuation scenarios for a decade but in the meantime a few round blue signs directing people upland away from surging surf had been erected as sensible precautions.

The Times was a quaint daily, extensively covering high school baseball and running dusty syndicated columns like Dear Abby and Hints from Heloise. The Datebook listings revealed trouble in paradise, there were frequent support gatherings for gamblers, overeaters, drug abusers, alcoholics and sex addicts. The time travellers’ club meets every last Thursday. The previous week’s DUI charges were published every Monday and included the name, age, residence of the guilty and the sentence imposed. The roll matched Datebook for length.

Neil Young, a part time resident of Maui, once sang that ‘You find the winners in the dives.’ Kahale’s is where we found the Kihei locals, their dogs and the day drinkers. A tourism based economy is something of a mixed curse but we were always made to feel welcome without any pretense of ‘Aloha!’ The bar’s food was anything found in a Costco freezer that could be deep fried. Most of the cash I was carrying was fed into its digital jukebox. My pint of choice was Longboard lager. Ann and I smoked outside in the rear of the small house-like building with pecking, strutting roosters for company. Our view was the Foodland loading bay across the street.

During our stay a Star-Advertiser op-ed columnist mused upon the nature of tourists. He wrote that there were two types of us, remote ones who desired the luxe and pampering proffered by resorts, as opposed to others like our quartet who wished to live like locals for a limited time in ‘grittier’ places such as Kihei while in search of an ‘authentic’ experience; I could not gauge his level of contempt nor snark. There are not many roads on Maui and Kihei, non-descript as it is, is a perfect starting point for day-tripping. Though the restaurants were decent, notably CafĂ© O’Lei, we enjoyed shopping for our own food and preparing it together. Drinks tasted just as refreshingly good on the lanai as they did in Kahale’s. And for our little band, our ever-evolving clan, we knew that one of us was out there somewhere in the blue water shimmering in the orange sunset. Kihei is a good place.